Monsters, Inc. (2001) – movie review

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Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Steve Buscemi

Directors: Peter Docter, David Silverman

Monstropolis is home to; you guessed it, a population of Monsters, which come in every shape and size. Their main source of power derives from the screams they get from hiding in closets and scarring children all over the world. The screams are caught with scream catchers then processed in a huge factory, Monsters Inc. This is the place where an elite team of monsters can enter the human world via portals. These portals are every child’s bedroom door, stored in a huge hanger so that they can be opened and used any time if the power in the city is running low and the monsters need to scare some kids after their parents have left them alone.

However, Monsters Inc have a major problem; children don’t scare as easily as they used to and the Monsters job is getting harder. In fact some of the monsters are more scared of the children than the children are of them. They rely on their two most successful monsters to keep their power sources topped up. The two champions are Sulley (John Goodman) who is always accompanied by his scare assistant Mike (Billy Crystal) and their challenger and arch foe Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi).

One night, Sulley finds himself on ‘the scare floor’ after hours and discovers a door that has not been returned to the ‘door vault’. Opening the door to investigate, he unwittingly admits a young human girl into his world, setting off a string of events that changes the world of Monstropolis forever. Sulley is under the impression (as are all the monsters) that children are toxic. He tries to get the little girl (whom he names Boo) back to her own world, but their efforts lead both Sulley and Mike to discover that something is not quite right in Monsters Inc and that there is a plot that involves not only their arch enemy Randall, but also reaches the very top of the Monster tree, the owner of Monsters Inc, Henry J Waterhouse (James Coburn). What they find, I will leave you to find out, but I can tell you that it’s a roller coaster ride of fun and thrills, backed up by, as expected from Pixar, excellent special effects.

The characters in the movie really do match the actor’s voices and the whole thing is seamlessly done. Although the opening scene is a little disturbing, the rest is pure entertainment for all the family. In fact, what I’ve just said is really what is at the heart of the movie- perhaps kids won’t be frightened. With constant bad news via the news and radio, perhaps kids aren’t as impressionable as they one were. This clever, but slightly disturbing opening scene could be there to make them sit up and take notice. There are enough real monsters in the world after all. I actually thought that the character of Boo was easily the most frightening in the film, but perhaps that’s the kind of cynicism you should leave behind when you go to see this film.

As I’ve said, it’s a visual treat and although the story could have been a little more defined, the set pieces, such as the chase through the portal doors to different child’s rooms throughout the world is worthy of anything Disney have done in the past. The references to sci-fi addicts and adults (the restaurant ‘Harryhausens’ is named after Ray Harryhausen, the stop motion wizard of the SINBAD movies etc) are subtle. There are so many nice touches, it, like its predecessor TOY STORY, merits successive viewing.

Verdict: A monster hit.

5 out of 6 stars